Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence

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9780099564980: Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence

From the renowned and best-selling author of A History of God, a sweeping exploration of religion and the history of human violence.

For the first time, religious self-identification is on the decline in American. Some analysts have cited as cause a post-9/11perception: that faith in general is a source of aggression, intolerance, and divisiveness—something bad for society. But how accurate is that view? With deep learning and sympathetic understanding, Karen Armstrong sets out to discover the truth about religion and violence in each of the world’s great traditions, taking us on an astonishing journey from prehistoric times to the present.

While many historians have looked at violence in connection with particular religious manifestations (jihad in Islam or Christianity’s Crusades), Armstrong looks at each faith—not only Christianity and Islam, but also Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Judaism—in its totality over time. As she describes, each arose in an agrarian society with plenty powerful landowners brutalizing peasants while also warring among themselves over land, then the only real source of wealth. In this world, religion was not the discrete and personal matter it would become for us but rather something that permeated all aspects of society. And so it was that agrarian aggression, and the warrior ethos it begot, became bound up with observances of the sacred.

In each tradition, however, a counterbalance to the warrior code also developed. Around sages, prophets, and mystics there grew up communities protesting the injustice and bloodshed endemic to agrarian society, the violence to which religion had become heir. And so by the time the great confessional faiths came of age, all understood themselves as ultimately devoted to peace, equality, and reconciliation, whatever the acts of violence perpetrated in their name.

Industrialization and modernity have ushered in an epoch of spectacular and unexampled violence, although, as Armstrong explains, relatively little of it can be ascribed directly to religion. Nevertheless, she shows us how and in what measure religions, in their relative maturity, came to absorb modern belligerence—and what hope there might be for peace among believers of different creeds in our time.

At a moment of rising geopolitical chaos, the imperative of mutual understanding between nations and faith communities has never been more urgent, the dangers of action based on misunderstanding never greater. Informed by Armstrong’s sweeping erudition and personal commitment to the promotion of compassion, Fields of Blood makes vividly clear that religion is not the problem.

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Review:

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, November 2014: Does religion lead to violence? This is the question that Karen Armstrong, the erudite former nun, asks in Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. Her answer is “no”—or more specifically, that religion is not itself a source of violence and the problem lies more deeply in “our human nature and the nature of the state.” To prove her point, she covers roughly five thousand years of religious history, from Gilgamesh to the present day. Along the way, she builds the case against those who state, often without much context, that “religion has been the cause of all the major wars in history.” This is both an apologia and a wide-ranging and very readable lesson in the history of religion. It may not completely change the mind of everyone who reads it; but like everything Armstrong writes, it will leave them more enriched. –Chris Schluep

About the Author:

Karen Armstrong is the author of numerous books on religion, including The Case for God, A History of God, The Battle for God, Holy War, Islam, Buddha, and The Great Transformation, as well as a memoir, The Spiral Staircase. Her work has been translated into forty-five languages. In 2008 she was awarded the TED Prize and began working with TED on the Charter for Compassion, created online by the general public, crafted by leading thinkers in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. It was launched globally in the fall of 2009. Also in 2008, she was awarded the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal. In 2013, she received the British Academy’s inaugural Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Transcultural Understanding.  

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. It is the most persistent myth of our time: religion is the cause of all violence. But history suggests otherwise. Karen Armstrong, former Roman Catholic nun and one of our foremost scholars of religion, speaks out to disprove the link between religion and bloodshed. Religion is as old as humanity: Fields of Blood goes back to the Stone Age hunter - gatherers and traces religion through the centuries, from medieval crusaders to modern-day jihadists; The West today has a warped concept of religion: we regard faith as a personal and private matter, but for most of history faith has informed people s entire outlook on life, and often been inseparable from politics; humans undoubtedly have a natural propensity for aggression: the founders of the largest religions - Jesus, Buddha, the rabbis of early Judaism, the prophet Muhammad - aimed to curb violence and build a more peaceful and just society, but with our growing greed for money and wealth came collective violence and warfare; with the arrival of the modern all-powerful, secular state humanity s destructive potential has begun to spiral out of control. Is humanity on the brink of destroying itself?Fields of Blood is a celebration of the ancient religious ideas and movements that have promoted peace and reconciliation across millennia of civilization. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099564980

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. It is the most persistent myth of our time: religion is the cause of all violence. But history suggests otherwise. Karen Armstrong, former Roman Catholic nun and one of our foremost scholars of religion, speaks out to disprove the link between religion and bloodshed. Religion is as old as humanity: Fields of Blood goes back to the Stone Age hunter - gatherers and traces religion through the centuries, from medieval crusaders to modern-day jihadists; The West today has a warped concept of religion: we regard faith as a personal and private matter, but for most of history faith has informed people s entire outlook on life, and often been inseparable from politics; humans undoubtedly have a natural propensity for aggression: the founders of the largest religions - Jesus, Buddha, the rabbis of early Judaism, the prophet Muhammad - aimed to curb violence and build a more peaceful and just society, but with our growing greed for money and wealth came collective violence and warfare; with the arrival of the modern all-powerful, secular state humanity s destructive potential has begun to spiral out of control. Is humanity on the brink of destroying itself?Fields of Blood is a celebration of the ancient religious ideas and movements that have promoted peace and reconciliation across millennia of civilization. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099564980

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